Blog Voices from the Frontlines

Jan 232008

Israel & Canada Move Ahead, while US Lags Behind in Medical Marijuana Research - Americans for Safe Access

  • January 23, 2008 11:23 AM
Earlier this month, there were two exciting developments for medical cannabis internationally. In Israel, a Tel Aviv medical clinic began dispensing medical cannabis to patients in need, while in Canada, a federal court ruling ended the monopoly a federal contractor has on supplying cannabis to patients, opening up possibilities for dispensaries and collective production of medicine. Our international counterparts may be surging ahead in their paths to provide safe access for patients who benefit from medical cannabis, but here in the US, it's sometimes hard to move to the conversation about access when our government barely budges on research issues. The DEA continues to uphold a monopoly on the production of cannabis for research, even though it's own administrative law judge recommended ending this monopoly by granting a license to Professor Lyle Craker to grow research material. While whole plant medical cannabis is being stonewalled though, GW Pharmaceuticals is moving rapidly through Phase III trials in the US for Sativex, a cannabis-based tincture. GW's chairman, Dr. Geoffrey Guy, had this to say about the progress of Sativex:
"2008 promises to be an equally eventful year for GW, with the results of a number of key Sativex Phase III trials in Europe and the US due to be reported. The momentum behind Sativex and the wider field of cannabinoid medicines, as highlighted today by the promising results of our THCV metabolic research programme, continues to grow..."
It's good to know that GW recognizes the potential for a wider field of cannabis medicine, but until the monopoly on production of cannabis for research is ended, it will be difficult for researchers to push this field forward in the United States. Until then, at least patients in Israel are happy: "One cancer patient said the ministry's decision to offer the drug through the clinic was "a blessing," saying it prevents suffering patients from being driven to buy the drug illegally."
Jan 182008

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • January 18, 2008 11:34 AM
Medical Marijuana and the 2008 Presidential Candidates Next Tuesday, January 22, marks the deadline for Californians to register to vote in the 2008 Presidential Primaries, which will be held on February 5, 2008. The California Primaries will give voters the chance to choose which candidate they want to have represent their party in the 2008 general elections. Over the past several months, the medical marijuana community has interacted with many of the candidates in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Activists, patients,and supporters throughout the country have targeted the candidates, asking them to take a stand for patients and support safe access and an end to DEA raids. While ASA has not endorsed a candidate, ASA activists, chapters, and affiliates participated in bird-dogging events throughout the country, asking the candidates the tough questions about medical marijuana, DEA raids, and research. Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana out in New Hampshire spent the majority of 2007 focusing on the candidates' positions on medical marijuana and educating voters, with the culminating event being the New Hampshire primaries two weeks ago. Several organizations including the Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana and Pro/Con.org released report cards on the primary candidates and medical marijuana. The website 10 Questions.com went so far as to include a question about medical marijuana and the DEA raids in their presidential forum. ASA's Chief of Staff, Rebecca Saltzman wrote up a review on the candidates' answers to the 10 Questions forum. Rebecca Saltzman's blog features video answers from several candidates and highlights the strongest positions. Check out Rebecca's blog at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/CandidateBlog With the deadline to register to vote less than a week away, we encourage you to consider registering to vote in time for the primary elections. All registration applications must be postmarked by Jan. 22nd to qualify in time for the primaries. As many of the reports mentioned above point out, the candidates' policies on medical marijuana vary greatly and it is up to us, the medical marijuana community, to vote for who we consider is the strongest candidate. To register to vote visit: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm To find out where your polling place is visit: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_ppl.htm For general information about the primary elections visit: http://www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov
Jan 112008

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • January 11, 2008 12:16 PM
California State Senator Carole Migden Takes a Stand for Safe Access This  week, State Senator Carole Migden introduced a resolution in the California Senate calling on the federal government to end its attacks on patients and providers in California and end the DEA raids.  This is a huge victory for patients, providers, supporters, and activists in the medical marijuana movement.  Senator Migden's statement comes as a response to the DEA's recent escalation of tactics against medical cannabis providers by targeting innocent third-party landlords, threatening to prosecute them and seize their property for renting to collectives. The resolution introduced yesterday makes a clear and strong statement about the DEA's actions in California, saying:

"Resolved by the Senate and the Assembly of the State of California, jointly, That the Legislature respectfully memorializes the Congress and President of the United States to enact legislation to require the Drug Enforcement Agency and all other federal agencies and departments to respect the compassionate use laws of states, including returning any assets seized from medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives to the states in which they are located…" Senator Migden's actions follow several recent statements from other California elected officials.  Senator Migden joins Los Angeles City Council Member Dennis Zine, Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, and others in opposing the DEA actions.  ASA and an ad-hoc coalition of reform organizations and activists have been reaching out to elected officials, calling on them to stand up for patients and providers. While Senator Migden's resolution is a significant win for the medical cannabis community, we must continue to urge our elected officials to stand up for patients and providers and call for an end to DEA raids in California. 

To better protect the rights and interests of landlords, ASA has created a set of answers to Frequently Asked Questions, which can be downloaded here. To find out how you can get involved in the campaign to end DEA raids in California, contact Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org or your local California ASA chapter and/or affiliate. Chapter and contact information for your local ASA chapter can be found at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/CaliforniaContacts

San Luis Obispo County Approves the Opening of the First Dispensing Collective This week, the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission voted to approve the permit for a dispensing collective in Templeton.  This approval comes after 6 months of debate.  With a narrow 3-2 victory, the collective will be the first dispensary in San Luis Obispo County.  This is a great victory for the hundreds of patients living in the region who have so far been denied safe access.  With the permit approval, the dispensing collective can open in 30 days, pending no appeal from the opposition. Read more about the new collective on  KSBY and SanLuisObispo.com

Mendocino Supervisors Vote to Limit Patients' Access and Revisit Measure G This week, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors voted to restrict patients' cultivation limits to only 25 plants per land parcel.  This decision means patient cultivation collectives and gardens are limited to only 25 plants, regardless of the number of registered medical cannabis patients living on or co-owning the parcel of land.  This decision has the potential to unduly limit the number of plants patients have the right to cultivate dictated by California state law. Following the vote, the board of supervisors also voted to revisit the 2000 initiative Measure G.  The measure decriminalized personal use of cannabis, with the intent to create safer access for medical cannabis patients. Measure G also allowed patients to cultivate up to 25 plants for personal use. The board's decision to put an initiative up for voters to revisit Measure G this June could have a significant impact on patients’ access.  If Mendocino voters vote in favor of an initiative which opposes Measure G, this could be a blow to patients' rights by limiting patients' cultivation.  Activists in Mendocino County, including Mendocino ASA are springing in to action as a result of the Board of Supervisors’ recent votes. To find out what you can do in Mendocino County, contact MendoBruce@yahoo.com Read more about the Board of Supervisors' votes in the Ukiah Daily Journal.

El Dorado County Denies Dispensing Collective Permit El Dorado County Board of Supervisors voted to not renew the business permit for the medical cannabis collective, Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association of El Dorado County.  The board's decision will have a grave impact on safe access for patients in El Dorado County.  The collective, located in Cameron Park, applied for a business license and in 2004. Following license approval by the county, the collective opened its doors to patients in 2005.  The decision to deny the license and shut down access for patients cited the disharmony of the federal and state medical marijuana laws. In response to the Board's decision, the collective's operator, Matt Vaughn, has decided to sue the county for violating California state law and the Compassionate Use Act.  ASA will keep you updated on the lawsuit and access in El Dorado County as news comes in. To read more about El Dorado County and the Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association of El Dorado County, go to: http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/622253.html

Jan 092008

2007: ASA's Year in Review - Americans for Safe Access

  • January 09, 2008 1:14 PM
In the January edition of ASA's monthly newsletter, we review much of what we accomplished in 2007, including:

  • Winning a legal victory that forces law enforcement to return medical marijuana to valid California patients

  • Co-sponsoring the largest HIV/AIDS lobby day in DC

  • Launching a grassroots campaign to pressure Gov. Schwarzenegger to stand up for patients' rights

  • Protecting state laws by defeating the Coburn Amendment

  • And much, much more... 


Thanks to Alex at Drug Law Blog for including some of ASA's accomplishments in his top 10 drug law stories of 2007. Here's how we ranked:

8. ASA Sues the Feds for Putting Out Pseudo-Scientific Gobbledygook.

One of the intriguing things about law is the way formalized and seemingly very "square" tactics can sometimes accomplish surprisingly progressive goals. This year, Americans for Safe Access brought a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA based on a law called the Data Quality Act.  The basic argument is that under the DQA, these federal agencies have to rely on accurate science in setting their policies, and that their position on medical marijuana manifestly fails to do that. This suit is still working its way through the courts, so we'll see what comes of it....

4. Medical Marijuana:  The Feds Push, and California Pushes Back

... In November, the Fourth District Court of Appeal decided City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court, a case that was all about whether an individual should be able to get back medical marijuana that was seized by police if the marijuana was legally possessed under California law. We also saw the oral argument in the California Supreme Court in the employment law case of Ross v. RagingWire, which was about whether an employee could be fired for using physician-approved medical marijuana. Though it's tough to know how that one will ultimately come out, at least some of the comments from the justices suggested that they were sympathetic to the state's position on medical marijuana. [Both of these cases were argued by ASA Chief Counsel, Joe Elford.]

Check out the rest of his top 10 to see how we matched up.
Jan 042008

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • January 04, 2008 10:59 AM

Oakland Mayor Dellums Speaks Out for Safe Access On December 20th, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums came out strongly in support of medical cannabis patients and dispensaries by issuing a statement and sending a letter to House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-MI). Dellums also stated his support for Representative Conyers' decision to hold hearings scrutinizing the latest DEA tactics in California of sending threatening letters to landlords and raiding dispensaries that are in compliance with local and state law. In Dellums' letter to Representative Conyers, he "urge[s] the House Judiciary Committee to expeditiously hold hearings and examine this very important issue." Mayor Dellums' public statement and letter were a result of a coalition of activists reaching out to the mayor, including ASA, local attorney James Anthony, the Drug Policy Alliance, CA NORML, and the Marijuana Policy Project. Just under a month ago, Bay Area landlords who rented to collectives received letters from the DEA threatening to seize their assets if they did not evict the medical cannabis providers. ASA and the coalition of advocates sprung into action, reaching out immediately to local elected officials, calling on them to stand up for patients and providers. Mayor Dellums' recent public support joins a handful of other elected officials in the Bay Area, including Senator Carol Migden, Assemblyman Mark Leno, and the Oakland City Council who have come out publicly against the federal government's attack on medical marijuana. We are continuing to rally support from local officials and the community. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates have yet to release a statement supporting medical cannabis patients and providers and condemning the DEA's attacks. Read Mayor Dellums' letter to Representative Conyers at: http://www.americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/Dellums_Letter_to_Conyers.pdf Read Mayor Dellums' statement at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/downloads/Dellums_Statement.pdf

To find out ways to get involved and ensure safe access in San Francisco please contact Alex Franco at: AAAFranco@yahoo.com To find out ways to get involved in the East Bay please contact Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org

Check out Mayor Dellums' press coverage on Channel 2, the Oakland Tribune, and KPFA

Court Appeals Verdict: Patient's Conviction is Reversed The Fourth Appellate District Court issued another very positive published decision in People v. Chakos last week. The two concurring judges, Aronson and Fybel, involved in the unanimous opinion were the same two concurring judges in the Garden Grove (Kha) case.

The court found that the conviction for possession with the intent to sell of defendant Chakos should be reversed because the court improperly admitted a cop to testify as an expert about marijuana distribution. They found him to be no more an expert than the average layperson because he did not understand the unique practices and difficulties faced by medical marijuana patients. Although the defendant possessed approximately six ounces of marijuana, had a digital scale, and plastic baggies, the court found that this did not suggest non-medical use. Specifically, after noting that a patient is legally entitled to possess eight ounces of marijuana under California law, the court stated:

"One might posit, then, that individuals who may lawfully possess marijuana under state law for medicinal purposes will have patterns of purchase and holding that will reflect the practical difficulties in obtaining the drug. Those practical difficulties could also explain the gram scale -- anyone with the lawful right to possess marijuana will need to take precautions not to insure that he or she does not get “ripped off” by a dealer, but that he or she does not possess more than the eight ounces contemplated by the Act. Practical difficulties of obtaining the drug also explain why a patient entitled to 13 possess it under state law might want to keep an extra supply on hand within the legal amount, since supplies would not be reliable."

They end the decision by referring to the "expert" cop:

"Now, are these speculations to be rejected because contradicted by the expert’s testimony on the record? No -- and that is the point: The record fails to show that Deputy Cormier is any more familiar than the average layperson or the members of this court with the patterns of lawful possession for medicinal use that would allow him to differentiate them from unlawful possession for sale. In other words, Cormier was unqualified to render an expert opinion in this case."

Read more about the case and the 4th Appellate Court's decision in the San Francisco Chronicle's story: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/21/BAJ0U37B7.DTL&tsp=1 Ukiah City Council Calls for Medicine Limits- Board of Supervisors to Consider Ballot Initiative The Ukiah City Council is expected to vote on a resolution today at 4:00pm, which calls on the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors to put an initiative on the ballot to limit the number of plants medical cannabis patients are allowed to cultivate and repeal the landmark legislation, Measure G. Measure G was voted on by the Mendocino County voters in 2000. The measure decriminalized personal use of cannabis, with the intent to create safer access for medical cannabis patients. Measure G also allowed patients to cultivate up to 25 plants for personal use.

The Council is calling for a repeal of Measure G and limiting the plant numbers to six per patient. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss putting the repeal of Measure G and limiting patients' cultivation on the ballot next Tuesday, January 8th.

Come out and support patients' access! Scroll down to "City and County Hearings" to find details about the Board of Supervisors meeting next Tuesday.

Read about Ukiah City Council's efforts to repeal of Measure G in the Press Democrat: http://www1.pressdemocrat.com/article/20071224/NEWS/712240316/1033/NEWS01 and in the Willits News: http://www.willitsnews.com//ci_7812598?IADID=Search-www.willitsnews.com-www.willitsnews.com

Orange County Begins Issuing Medical Cannabis ID Cards From Safe Access Now's Aaron Smith

On January 2nd, the Orange County Department of Public Health launched the statewide medical marijuana ID card program. Application for the cards are being taken on an appointment-only basis. Obtaining a card is voluntary for patients and caregivers but many find them to be very helpful in preventing false arrest by state and local law enforcement. In order to qualify for the ID card, you must be able to provide a copy of a valid doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana, proof of residency within Orange County and pay an application fee of $150 ($75 for MediCal recipients).

To make an appointment and apply for the card program, call the County Health Department at (714) 480-6717 during normal business hours.

Dec 202007

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • December 20, 2007 11:09 AM
ASA Files New Arguments in San Diego Case This week, patients throughout California along with the city of San Diego filed a brief incorporating two new legal arguments that oppose San Diego County's attempt to defy and overturn California state law.  Representing the medical marijuana patients of California, ASA's Chief Counsel, Joe Elford filed the brief with the intent to highlight the recent California Court of Appeals decision in Kha vs. Garden Grove, which was released in late November of this year. San Diego County is awaiting a decision in their appeal, which was filed in early February. San Diego County filed a lawsuit in February 2006 challenging the state requirement to implement an identification card program for qualified medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers.  In December 2006, San Diego Superior Court Judge William Nevitt, Jr. ruled that there is no "positive conflict" between federal and state law, affirming the sovereignty of state law. The Counties of San Diego and San Bernardino appealed in February. ASA and the City of San Diego filed the amicus, "friend of the court," brief citing the Kha decision. Since San Diego County's main legal argument is that federal law preempts state law, incorporating the Kha decision in this recent brief has the potential to have an major impact in the lawsuit.  The California's Fourth Appellate District, which heard the Kha case, is the same appellate court that will hear this case. In the November 28th ruling in City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court of Orange County, the court held that state law was neither "preempted" nor "superseded" and stated further that, "it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws..." Read ASA's press release about the brief here. DEA Raids Los Angeles Dispensary Herbal Nutrition Center in Los Angeles was raided yesterday afternoon by DEA agents.  The collective was ransacked by agents, but no one was arrested. DEA agents seized medicine and vandalized displays and the collective's surveillance system.  As a result of the raid and the upcoming holidays the collective will be re-opening it's doors on January 2, 2008. Thank you to all that came out to show your support.  If you haven't signed up for ASA's raid alert text messaging system, do so today at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/RaidAlert Read a report about the raid from the collective's operator on ASA's forums at: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/punbb/viewtopic.php?id=642   Special Announcement: Tom Kikuchi has Moved to a Different Facility ASA has been alerted that recently convicted Tom Kikuchi has been moved has been taken from Dyer Detention Center.  Sarah Armstrong, longtime supporter and caretaker for victims of the war on medical marijuana reports that, "he feels this is a temporary situation, and that he will soon be shipped away to somewhere else, they will not tell him where."  Sarah has also reported that Tom has asked that people hold up on cards and letters until he can ascertain how long he will be at this federal facility.  ASA will keep you updated as news comes in. Tom Kikuchi, co-defendant along with Stephanie Landa and Kevin Gage, was sentenced only a few weeks ago to two years in a federal prison for violating the conditions of his federal supervised release. Read Vanessa Nelson's article(s) on Tom Kikuchi at: http://www.medicalmarijuanaofamerica.com/content/view/166/111/
Dec 192007

10 Questions: Presidential Candidates on Medical Marijuana - Americans for Safe Access

  • December 19, 2007 12:24 PM
There's a great online presidential forum that has asked 10 questions to each of the presidential candidates. Question #3 asks the candidates how they feel about medical marijuana, whether they would stop the DEA raids, and if they would change the laws. So far, one Republican and four Democrats have answered the questions. Here are there answers: Mike Huckabee does a great job at dodging the question and even claims that the way to go about this would be for advocates to just change the laws (as if we weren't trying, and as if Huckabee would have no influence over this if he was president): Mike Gravel dodges the question in a completely different way, using the opportunity to bash the war on drugs and talk about broader decriminalization of marijuana: Dennis Kucinich probably does the best job of answering the question directly, clearly stating that he would end the raids and that medical marijuana should be available to those who need it: John Edwards states that he would end the DEA raids and ties medical marijuana into the broader issue of the Bush administration's neglect of science, in favor of politics: Barack Obama also voices support for medical marijuana, saying that if it's safe it should regulated like other prescription drugs, though he takes jabs at patients who grow their own medicine: So what do you think? Who dodged the question? Who answered it the best? Did any of these answers change who you're going to vote for?
Dec 142007

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • December 14, 2007 10:37 AM
Dozens of Patients and Activists Protest DEA in Support of Tainted, Inc. Today, dozens of Bay Area activists gathered at the Oakland Federal Building in protest of the recent raids on several Tainted, Inc. facilities and the arrests of four employees. The "Holiday Party Protest," commenced with Tainted operator and ASA activist, Michael Martin, dressed in a Santa Claus costume singing holiday carols. Martin then gave a compelling speech, presenting the DEA with a selection of scientific research which proves the efficacy of medical marijuana, and a Grinch plush doll. Referencing the tale of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Martin encouraged the DEA to have a change of heart, as the Dr. Seuss story says. The protest continued with patient activist, Jacqueline Patterson, speaking about the importance of medical marijuana for patients, and Dr. Frank Lucido, echoing her sentiments. The Tainted, Inc. defendants' court hearing has been postponed to January 29th. Bay Area activists and ASA plan on attending for court support. We will keep you updated on the hearing's date and location in future alerts. Read ASA's press release about the DEA's raid on Tainted here.  For more information on what you can do to support the defendants, visit www.FreeTainted.com.  DEA Asset Forfeiture Letters Reach Northern California; Activists Mobilize This week, the DEA's newest tactic of shutting down access for patients reached Northern California. Several Northern California collectives' landlords received asset forfeiture letters from the DEA. In these letters, the DEA threatens to seize the property of the innocent third-party landlords for allowing medical cannabis collectives to operate in their properties. While this is a concerning development, ASA is working in coalition with Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, California NORML, and other activists and leaders to ensure that andlords, patients, and providers are protected. We will need the grassroots' support and actions in the upcoming weeks. Please stay alert, as the coalition will be calling on activists to take action to ensure safe access in California. Court Denies Appeal for Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative This week, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative's oral arguments, affirming the U.S. government's injunction. This decision does not change the current situation for medical cannabis dispensaries in California. Read more about the decision, reported by CBS 5: http://cbs5.com/local/medical.marijuana.oakland.2.610402.html DEA Seizes Taxes from CA Board of Equalization From Dale Gieringer, Executive Director, California NORML DEA raids on California's medical marijuana dispensaries are costing the state's taxpayers millions of dollars in lost revenues, according to records collected by California NORML. The DEA has not only closed facilities that were paying millions of dollars yearly in sales taxes, but also seized as much as $450,000 in sales tax payments that were in transit to the state Board of Equalization. Among them was a $350,000 electronic payment to the BOE from the Compassion Center of Alameda County, which the DEA seized from the bank on October 30th. Read the rest of the story>>
Dec 032007

Court of Appeals Orders Police to Return Medical Marijuana - Americans for Safe Access

For years there has been harassment against medical marijuana patients through the confiscation of their medicine, and, until now, there had been no clear statement on this by the appellate courts. On Wednesday, this changed. In City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court, a unanimous panel of three judges on California's Fourth Appellate District issued a 41-page published opinion, which made clear that all superior court judges across the state must return confiscated marijuana to qualified marijuana patients who demonstrate that they are entitled to possess it under California law. The opinion is written by the Honorable William Bedsworth, whom many consider the "Literary Jurist." It has many quotable passages. The opinion starts out with a noticeable description of the issue presented -- "We confront here the facially anomalous request that we approve state confiscation of a substance which is legal in the circumstances under which it was possessed." I take this to mean that the court is stating that it will not condone police seizing marijuana that is possessed legally under California law. In other words, the police should not have taken Felix Kha's marijuana in the first place. The court, then, treated seized medical marijuana just like other legally possessed property taken by the police and found that "[b]ecause Kha is legally entitled to possess it, due process and fundamental fairness dictate that it be returned to him." There would not be an exception to these constitutional principles for medical marijuana patients. Courts must return medical marijuana to qualified patients. But what about federal law, you wonder? Well, federal law expressly contains an exception to its marijuana laws for law enforcement officers performing their functions. 21 U.S.C. Section 885(d) provides that "no civil or criminal liability shall be imposed [under the federal Controlled Substances Act] upon any . . . duly authorized officer of any State . . . who shall be lawfully engaged in the enforcement of any law or municipal ordinance relating to controlled substances." Thus, as did a unanimous court of appeals in Oregon, the Fourth Appellate District held that the courts and police are immune from federal drug laws for returning medical marijuana. Law enforcement's reliance on federal law in refusing to do this is misplaced. The court further explained:
By complying with the trial court's order, the Garden Grove police will actually be facilitating a primary principle of federalism, which is to allow the states to innovate in areas bearing on the health and well-being of their citizens. Indeed, "[o]ure federalist system, properly understood, allows California and a growing number of States [that have authorized the use of medical marijuana] to decide from themselves how to safeguard the health and welfare of their citizens." [citation] The [Compassionate Use Act] and the [Medical Marijuana Program Act] are a clear manifestation of that decision-making process.
The feds may do what the feds will do in enforcing their own laws, but the people of California are entitled to decide to tread a different path, which requires the return of medical marijuana wrongfully seized by the police. The City of Garden Grove was joined in its resistance to court-ordered return of medical marijuana by several amici (friends of the court), which included the California Peace Officer' Association and the California District Attorneys' Association. (The Attorney General, on the hand, filed a brief supporting our side.) The court addressed several of their claims:
Amici for the City also claim that ordering the return of Kha's marijuana is ill advised as a matter of public policy because local police are held to a high moral standard, they often cooperate with federal drug enforcement efforts, and they are generally charged with enforcing and administering “the law of the land,” which includes federal law. We appreciate these considerations and understand police officers at all levels of government have an interest in the interdiction of illegal drugs. But it must be remembered it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws as such. For reasons we have explained, state courts can only reach conduct subject to federal law if such conduct also transcends state law, which in this case it does not. To the contrary, Kha's conduct is actually sanctioned and made “noncriminal” under the CUA.
The court emphasized to the police that medical marijuana patients are not criminals:
Amici argue the police should not have to return Kha's marijuana to him, even though he is qualified to use the drug for medical reasons under California law. Characterizing Kha as a “criminal defendant,” amici claim the CUA only provides him with a “defense” to certain offenses and does not make his possession of medical marijuana “lawful.” But Kha is clearly not a criminal defendant with respect to the subject marijuana. Since the prosecution dismissed the drug charge he was facing, he is nothing more than an aggrieved citizen who is seeking the return of his property. The terms “criminal” and “defendant” do not aptly apply to him.
For the first time in a published opinion, a California court clarified to the local police that it is state law, not federal law, they should be enforcing. It was a pleasure to read this thoughtful, well-reasoned decision which strongly vindicates the right of medical marijuana patients everywhere. It will be cited often. For the briefs filed in the case see here.
Dec 032007

ASA Applauds Gov. Richardson’s Inclusion of Medical Marijuana in HIV/AIDS Platform - Americans for Safe Access

  • December 03, 2007 10:29 AM
On Saturday, December 1, to commemorate Worlds AIDS Day, Democratic Presidential Candidate, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson unveiled his HIV/AIDS policy platform.  In addition to recognizing the need for a National AIDS Strategy, the Governor’s plan includes a provision that would permit the use of medicinal marijuana to help people living with HIV/AIDS improve pain and symptom management. The anti-emetic and analgesic properties of cannabis have been particularly useful to HIV/AIDS patients.  People living with HIV/AIDS have long used cannabis to help with symptoms of HIV related illnesses ranging from wasting and loss of appetite to adherence to medications.  Consequently, it is estimated that as many as 1 in 4 AIDS patients use cannabis for medical purposes. Earlier this year, the journal Neurology published the results of a clinical trial indicating that smoked marijuana can alleviate painful, peripheral HIV/AIDS-related neuropathy.  Research also shows that access to cannabis may improve health care outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS.  For example individuals who use cannabis in conjunction with their antiretroviral therapy are approximately 3.3 times more likely to remain on their prescribed drug therapies than those who do not use cannabis. The Bush Administration has failed to acknowledge the growing body of evidence which demonstrate that marijuana has medical value.  In fact, neither the Clinton nor the Bush Administrations  have ever undertaken any effort to review or fully implement the recommendations of the 1999 Institute of Medicine (IOM) study, Marijuana and Medicine-Assessing the Science, which acknowledged that "For patients such as those with AIDS or who are undergoing chemotherapy and who suffer simultaneously from severe pain, nausea, and appetite loss, cannabinoid drugs might offer broad-spectrum relief not found in any other single medication." In contrast, California and 12 other states, including New Mexico, have passed laws that authorize the use of cannabis by qualified patients who possess a recommendation from their physicians.  Americans for Safe Access is encouraged by Governor Richardson’s sensitivity to the intersection of medical marijuana and HIV/AIDS.  We hope other Presidential candidates will take note, and follow his lead.